TIP members are investing in R&D to develop alternatives to natural rubber and petroleum-based products, for example:
Continental’s Taraxagum project generates natural rubber from dandelions, opening up an alternative source of raw material that was used to develop Continental’s first production-line bicycle tire made from dandelion-sourced natural rubber. The dandelions are cultivated, extracted and processed in Germany, near the tire production plant. Local production and extraction of raw materials provides an alternative to the long transport routes associated with natural rubber sourced from rubber trees, CO2 emissions reductions and the conservation of resources. Continental’s vision is to industrialize in 5-8 years and replace 10% of natural rubber by around 2035.
Manufacturers, including Bridgestone and Cooper, have invested in the development of Guayule, a rubber-producing plant indigenous to the hot and dry environments of the Southwestern United States and North-Central Mexico, as an alternative to natural rubber sourced from rubber trees.
Goodyear has replaced petroleum-based components with soybean oil in some tread compounds. Soybean oil can enhance tire performance and is sourced from a renewable, bio-based material. Additionally, the use of soybean oil promotes resource efficiency; only 65% of soybean oil produced in the US is used in food applications, so a significant surplus is available for other applications. Goodyear has successfully achieved its goal of increasing soybean oil consumption by 25% by 2020 vs. 2018 from suppliers focused on sustainable sourcing and continues to work to fully replace petroleum-derived oils by 2040.
Pirelli aims to use at least 40% renewable materials in selected consumer tires by 2025 while reducing fossil-derived materials to less than 40% and enhancing the potential of secondary materials in other processes, for example, developing lignin and deriving high-performance silica from rice husk. Lignin is a natural material sourced from paper pulp with antioxidant properties that can be used as a substitute for fossil-derived products to improve the performance of tires, a use for which Pirelli has already obtained a trademark. Rice husk is the main waste product of rice production and a source of silica that Pirelli has industrialized for tire production. Where fossil fuels are used to power manufacturing, the life cycle carbon footprint of rice-husk silica results in a reduction of one-and-a-half times the amount of CO2 emitted per kilogram of silica compared to the conventional approach to manufacturing that uses quartzsand silica.
Carbon black is the component that facilitates the vulcanization (hardening) process in tire production and gives tires their distinct black color. Bridgestone has been an equity partner of Delta-Energy Group, LLC since 2014 and, in 2019, announced that a product of this partnership was the tire market’s first at-scale use of recovered carbon black (rCB).
This marked a significant milestone in Bridgestone Group’s long-term environmental vision of achieving 100% sustainable materials by 2050. The Delta-Energy Group process to extract materials produces 81% less CO2 per ton compared to the use of virgin carbon black. By the end of 2020, Bridgestone planned to increase the use of rCB to 6,800 metric tons, equivalent to about 2 million ELTs and a reduction of about 11,000 metric tons of carbon emissions – equivalent to the emissions resulting from powering 2,000 homes or more than 2,300 passenger vehicles for an entire year. Every year, through the partnership with Delta- Energy, Bridgestone will give material from millions of ELTs new life by using them in newly manufactured products.
Around 1 billion tires reach the end of their useful life as tires every year. Recovering ELTs reduces waste and provides a fuel and material resource that can replace other resource-intensive materials.
The majority of tires are recovered and reused. In fact, tires are one of the most heavily recycled consumer products. The global recovery rate is estimated to be between 70% and 90%, with rates exceeding 90% in well developed markets.
Tire trade associations have been working with regional stakeholders for several decades to incentivize existing markets and uses for ELTs, to identify and develop new uses and markets, and to advance regulations that foster sustainable ELT markets.
An understanding of the status of global ELT management and best practices can help inform regional-level actions aimed at improved ELT management. Since 2008, TIP has initiated and supported extensive research on ELT management systems globally and is continually evaluating best practices, innovative methods, and recovery rates. This research is compiled in a series of reports, highlighting that cooperation between tire manufacturers, retailers and governments is essential if ELT are to be managed sustainably. The 2019 TIP report on Global ELT Management: A global state of knowledge on regulation, management systems, impacts of recovery and technologies provides an overview of ELT data collected from 51 countries and an analysis of the recovery routes and most effective ELT management methods.
TIP’s work on ELTs continues and includes a series of targeted stakeholder dialogue events worldwide, including the US, Europe and China, that aim to further sustainable ELT management through an actionoriented exchange of knowledge and good practices between stakeholders in the ELT value chain.